The Coits are a very weird and interesting band from Washington, D.C., that almost nobody outside the region knows about. I am hoping to raise some awareness of their existence. I could spend a paragraph describing their well-trod sound, but suffice it to say, “punk.” Their live shows are always entertaining, as Seth Feinberg (interviewed below) is quite a frontman.
The first time I saw the Coits, they started their set with Seth nonchalantly dropping stacks of china plates onto the floor; a computer followed; then a keyboard. Fellow-rager Teresa took it upon herself to try skateboarding in the small basement.
I looked up and saw a cast of freaks: a guy in sunglasses, a few random punkers I had never seen, a norm-looking drummer, and my friend Simon wearing a hockey jersey and literally solo’ing over the entire set.
I was bewildered, but ended up getting really pumped. The tunes were decent, but the live show was incredible. The destruction was contagious.
Teresa tried to smash the keyboard with no luck, so I told her to hold it up for me and I tried to punch through it. I ended up getting a really big gash on my hand (stupid), but I was pumped and it didn’t hurt, so who cares?
1. How and when did the Coits come together? What were the goals of the band upon its inception?
First of all, thank you, Nick, for your enthusiasm and support for the band. I’m a fan of yours and of Coke Bust, so it is more meaningful to me than you probably think.
Also, thanks for giving me a chance to talk about my favorite subject: myself.
The Coits started in 2003 at the Notasquat and Georgetown University. The band was started by John Albaneaze and me.
John was just learning how to play guitar, but he is a savant when it comes to songwriting. He wrote most of the songs. He also contributed to the lyrics. We are good friends who are on the same wavelength to an extent that is highly unusual for me.
The members of the band we cultivated were like-minded feminists who thought our music was cool; because we were in college, people were always studying abroad, dropping out, or quitting the band because we didn’t sound like Fugazi, but we didn’t let that deter us and we stuck with my vision: self-aggrandizement and smashing computers.
Roughly in this order, the goals of the band were: compose and perform catchy and creative hard punk with overt grunge, folk, hardcore punk and garage rock influences, complemented by funny and political lyrics; not be a boring live band (unlike nearly every band I watched perform around the time); use our shows to support causes we believed in (we played a lot of shows to benefit campus workers; we were lucky that there was a lot of activism around labor issues on campus at that time and we were able to participate and do some fundraising for the cause); use our shows as a vehicle to have fun and give our friends opportunities to have fun; win back the Liz of my life; play as many cool shows with cool bands as possible; and overtly reiterate and propagate the most intelligent, interesting and humorous aspects of the entire rock ’n’ roll genre (it’s a great genre). We have accomplished some of our goals.
John is currently attending law school at Columbia, but played one show with the band in 2011 when Psi-Dog quit. John is also set to play our eight-year-anniversary celebration in October. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but we took 2005-2008 off. Our first show was at the Notasquat, on Oct. 12, 2003.
2. Can you run down each of the members of the band and tell us a little bit about them? What do you perceive their meanings of life to be (including yours)?
Zomawia “Chino” Sailo, guitar: A talented artist, musician, and artist of the information superhighway, Chino is a quintessential antisocial badass with a heart of gold.
The child of a hardworking and well-educated single mother, Chino grew up in the ghetto of Gaithersburg, Maryland, with a tight and exceedingly racially diverse group of friends who were also generally into alternative rock and punk music.
A big fan of At the Drive In, the Black Powder Fuzzbox, Fugazi, and Gang of Four, Chino is a member of a relatively obscure Indian ethnic group, the Mizos. He looks Asian (hence his nickname) and has visited his family in India. He once told me that Mizos are “stupid and cheap.”
He was the soundman at the notorious D.C. punk-rock venue the U-Turn.
We met when his old band, Pattern Against User, played the “Punk Rock Picnic,” at Georgetown University back in 2004. I solicited bands for that show on the Pheerboard, so the Internet brought us together. Chino is smart, generous, a true friend and a very useful person to be friends with. We played in a hard-folk band called Usuario2 in 2007 and 2008. That band sounded like a mix of the Coits, At the Drive In, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pattern Against User, and Refused – with folk lyrics – and we played some really good shows and were well received by our friends. Usuario2 ended when our guitarist and primary songwriter, Adam Piece, moved back to Boston to pursue his true love: music that sounds more like Sunny Day Real Estate.
A skilled and unique guitarist, Chino is also quite responsible, unlike most good guitarists. He is arguably the most unconventional, liberated member of the Coits, which is really saying something. He is the third coolest-looking member of the Coits.
Shintario “Shin for the Win” Doi, bass: Shin grew up in Japan on a steady diet of alternative rock. He is extremely bright. We met at Georgetown University in like 2004 (we became friends in like 2005). He was considered the best bassist at Georgetown and he went to his fair share of Coits shows back then. We played in a band called Coitus Detritus that played one exceedingly destructive show in 2005. Shin is very artistic, articulate, and well versed on international affairs, economic theories, technology, and many other matters. He works at the Black Cat, a Washington, D.C. rock club. An experienced political activist, he has held a very wide range of jobs, from anti-mountaintop removal organizer to trade union spy in a Starbucks to deep house party doorman to Thai chef. His parents have high-status jobs. He has also lived in Korea and Thailand. He is very knowledgeable about a large number of genres of music, and can also hold it down on guitar and drums. He is a good songwriter, but doesn’t really write songs for the Coits. He and I interviewed Ian MacKaye in 2005. He has also interviewed Joe Lally. He is a great friend and a generous guy. He joined the band in 2008, when Prescott got the band back together in order to really freak out the squares and teach the indie rock lames what rock ’n’ roll is (did we ever). Shin fit right in. He is the second coolest-looking member of the Coits, which is really saying something.
Simon “Psi” Cohen, guitar: A virtuoso-type axist and a prominent metal promoter in the D.C. underground, Psi has a good sense of humor and is intelligent. He is the leader of the band Midnight Eye. The son of a diplomat, he went to the same boarding school in Switzerland as a son of Kim Jong Il. Psi joined the band in like 2008, after John went to law school, so we went from having a beginning-level guitarist to a Marty Friedman-type. A talented writer, Midnight Psi has already quit the band three times and is considering quitting again. Who knows how many times he will quit? Personally, I think it’s safe to say that only God knows.
Psi-Dog has long hair and is the Coits’ primary songwriter at this point. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, and teaches guitar for a living.
Prescoit, drums: The son of a working drummer, Pres is half-Greek, which is important to him. While in college, he studied in Greece and worked for the Greek embassy in D.C. We have been friends nearly since I moved to D.C. in 2002. A graduate of a prestigious D.C. college, ’Scotty is a lifelong friend of a close pal o’ mine from G-Town.
Prescott joined the band a few months after our first show, and he fit right in. It was really nice to have a drummer who played drums; it changed our sound in a major way. We were roommates at the Hardcore Hilton when he was in college (I graduated in 2004; he graduated in 2006).
I have never been able to keep up with him when it comes to partying, and I stopped trying to keep that killing pace a long time ago.
He grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, but considers D.C. home. He is a talented lyricist. Operation Ivy was his favorite band in high school.
Garrett Underwood, guitar: The most recent addition to the band, Garrett joined in early 2011. He was a Coits enthusiast before becoming a Coit.
The youngest member of the Coits by several years (he is 21), G has been in a number of notable D.C. bands, including Wyld Stallyns 3000, Body Cop, and Ilsa (he is currently in Ilsa). We met at a Wyld Stallyns show in 2007.
An overt badass, G memorably said, “I thought I was weird until I joined the Coits; the Coits are fucking freaks.”
He fits right in.
He is arguably the most unconventional and liberated person in the band, which is really saying something.
He is one of only two people hardcore enough to live at the Corpse Fortress on two distinct occasions. He parties like a drug addict and walks dogs for a living. A native of Rockville, Maryland, G is highly intelligent and is very popular within “the scene.” He is not considering quitting the band (as far as I know!), but Ilsa is his primary focus. I am encouraging him to compose more music and lyrics for the Coits. He is the coolest-looking member of the Coits, which is really saying something.
Seth Feinberg, mouth: Thank you for affording me the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject: myself. I am a negative creep. If asked to expound upon the subject, I would reply that I am the son of a pair of freethinkers with unusual integrity. I feel that, at my best, I am a cross between my parents (with whom I am close): My mother is a librarian, journalist, and nature enthusiast; my father is a politically aware tough guy, union man, sports fan, and nature enthusiast. I have lived a charmed life and am politically engaged. I follow world affairs more closely than the average person, and am an environmentalist, trade unionist, and Democrat (in that order). I have a younger sister who is a badass, and we grew up in the middle of the woods in a very small town in upstate New York. I was the only person into punk in my town; there were maybe a dozen kids in other grades into punk and hardcore throughout the course of my middle/high school years (the towns up there are so small that kids from a few towns attend schools in a central location; it was the ’90s, so I had a pal who had blue hair and was into Christian punk, etc.). We lifted weights to Sick of It All.
In a “notable twist of fate,” I first heard Nirvana on an elementary school field-trip to D.C. There was a boom-box on the bus and the kids were playing Ace of Bass. My friend commandeered the ’box and played “Teen Spirit” dozens of times in a row. It took hours for the other kids to start complaining.
I got into Minor Threat in eighth grade, courtesy of an older guy who grew up in D.C. They quickly became one of my favorite bands. Growing up, I never knew anyone who was straight-edge.
In addition to Christianity and socialism, I believe in evolutionary psychology.
I think the meaning of life is to enjoy oneself, help others, and, in the modern world at least, forestall the demise of every species on earth (including our own) at the hands of humanity. I know that’s a boring definition.
3. It is evident that you are all a very eclectic group of individuals with very different lifestyles. How does the band mesh? How do you all get along?
Our lives might not be as different as they seem (with the possible exception of Chino’s; he is the most aggressively antisocial member of the band; who knows what that guy is up to?).
Brendan Griffiths once described us as “an extremely diverse group of extremely liberated people,” which is high praise.
Big Al Acosta described us as “the bad boys of D.C. punk” – high praise.
We get along well; sometimes we get annoyed with each other, but we are close friends in general (although there are inevitable “relationship dynamics” in a six-person band with a wide range of musical tastes and non-musical interests). For example, it might seem that Pres and G have nothing in common, but they get along really well. I consider everyone else in the band a close friend (except Simon).
4. I am specifically intrigued by your drummer, Prescott, who works as a lobbyist for a trade association. Apparently he is quite a hit with the ladies. How does he do this and what is his style? Feel free to speak for him.
Prescott is extremely gregarious, socially adept, and easygoing, and he’s fun to be around. Additionally, he’s handsome, funny, and a secret genius. He has a good job and parties like he’s in Ilsa. That combination is a well-trod formula for sexual success (depending upon one’s definition of success, of course!).
According to Prescott, he learned everything he knows (about getting girls, not about drumming) from Pip (the Lone Rangers’ drummer in the 1994 comedy “Airheads”), who was portrayed by Adam Sandler. Pip gets “his hands on more bumper than a body shop,” as explained by frontman Chazz Darvey (Brendan Fraser).
“While some may mistake his style for the I’m-so-stupid-I-must-be-cute routine, in actuality, that’s the quiet cool – chicks, man, they just flock to it,” Prescott comments in response to this query.
5. What are the songs about? What is the lyrical MO?
In general they have always been political statements, love songs, diss tracks, and diss tracks about myself – with a twist of lemon. I’ve been writing more diss tracks about myself lately than anything else, by far.
6. Your band has achieved cult notoriety within the D.C. scene for breaking large quantities of electronics during your sets. Some people have criticized this as a tactical gimmick (Ed: If it is a gimmick, it has surely won me over, regardless).
How would you respond to this criticism? Why do you break shit during your sets?
I’d never heard anyone call it a gimmick before receiving this question. Since then, James Doubek made the same type of statement, so I reckon that’s what people think. I’d never thought about it that way.
According to dictionary.com, a gimmick is “an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal.”
While it may be ingenious and somewhat novel, I know that our enthusiastic embrace of destruction always alienated and turned off more people than it appealed to.
I also know that the demolition really appeals to like-minded people, which is all a punk band should hope for, anyway: to appeal to those who get it, while alienating those who don’t.
I’ve really enjoyed destroying stuff for as long as I can remember; my old friends can tell you numerous stories about me smashing and burning things for no reason other than the joy it brings. Thinking back on it all, I have a lot of happy memories. I remember sneaking off as a child to smash bottles. The best date I ever went on was when I asked my friend if she was into breaking stuff and she replied “Yes,” and we went into an abandoned ski shed and demolished everything in it. There was a lot of stuff in there; it took a while and was a lot of fun.
We started smashing stuff at our shows because I enjoy doing so.
My beloved Hoyas had a plethora of “outdated” computer monitors laying around all over the place – like 50 of ‘em piled up behind the library at a time and numerous others in corridors all over campus – and I would stockpile them in an on-campus apartment. It was just a way to enjoy myself, although it immediately became apparent that our friends also really liked smashing computers, computer monitors, outdated A.V. equipment that we found in dusty corners of rarely used rooms, etc. G-Town had all kinds of derelict technology all over the place, forgotten or waiting to be disposed of. I disposed of it the right way – by smashing it with the hammer of God!
It’s just a way to enjoy myself and provide some fun for my friends and the people who enjoy the band.
I have an inordinate amount of rage for some reason, always have, and it is one way to let the rage out. One always feels better, for a little while.
In addition, this stratagem is one way the Coits adhere to our mission statement of not being a staid live band.
Finally, smashing stuff at our shows also offers an obvious statement about the value and lifecycle of technology, as well as our nation’s rabid consumption and the nearly immediate obsolescence of our purchases.
Things worth hundreds, thousands of dollars just a few years ago are now worthless. It’s kind of interesting, if you think about it – what we buy and what it buys us.
At one show I tried to auction off a few computer monitors and even a desktop computer or two. No one bid on them. Trenchant commentary, to be sure.
Let’s talk about you, if you don’t mind. You’re a very bright, well spoken, successful guy. Why do you continually live in sub-par living situations (Corpse Fortress, Chris Moore’s room in 2008, the smallest room in the Newton Street house, etc.)? You can surely afford a real room. Do you have an affinity for such living spaces?
1) I dispute the premise of your question. For a person like me, those living situations are well above par. Putting me at the Corpse Fortress was like putting a pig in slop. I fit right in. I really like Loren Martin and Jessie “Corpse Fortress Princess” Brennan. Living at the CF also gave me the chance to become friends with Dylan and Brendan Griffiths, who are awesome. It also gave me the chance to get to know Psi-Dog and other people who used to hang out there.
Also, it allowed the Coits to have a practice space and a place to book shows whenever we wanted, and it allowed me to see a lot of great shows for free, and even occasionally make some money (for the house!) by facilitating awesome shows.
There aren’t a lot of things more fun than seeing your favorite bands performing in your basement while every few hours people hand you hundreds of dollars.
Also, my rent was $90-a-month for an entire year, allowing me to exist as a freelance writer. The second time I lived there, I had a much bigger room and my rent was $250 a month.
1a) Chris Moore pimps out a bedroom like he pimps out his life. Living in his room at the Chill Factory was one of my best living situations ever, and it gave me the chance to get to know Justin Malone, Nick Tape, Pat Vogel, Drew E., Big Al, etc.
It also gave the Coits a great place to practice and record, and it allowed me to go on a weekend tour with Sick Fix and borrow money from Pat Vogel. There were a lot of cool basement shows happening within a few blocks of the Chill Factory at the time, too. It was great. That place was kinda expensive, though – like $500 a month.
1aa) The Newton Street house is a similar situation: Living there gave me the opportunity to get to know Zizzack, John of Today, Ahron of Judah, etc. – I’m on the same wavelength, more or less, as all of ’em, but didn’t really know them well (or at all) before. Now they love the Coits! My bedroom is small, but that’s just fine with me; it’s comfortable, and I don’t have many possessions compared to the average 30-year-old American. $350 rent.
2) Thank you sincerely for the compliments. They are meaningful to me. I don’t necessarily see myself that way. I often see myself as a depressive, narcissistic, boring, useless sellout full of soul doubt, an idiot savant offered a charmed life on a silver platter who has done a great job of throwing it all away.
3) I have accomplished a lot as journalist, and have enjoyed far more success as a writer than I expected to, but I spent years eking out a living as a freelance reporter, and journalism is not very remunerative for the vast majority of its practitioners. If you view it as an art, you might end up living like an artist!
4) My father recently informed me that I will probably live and die deep in debt. He said that’s just normal for our social class and I should just accept it. I hope that, if that’s the case, I can live high on the hog and enjoy an extremely rich array of experiences and material goods and leave Wells Fargo with the tab.
What are your dreams for the Coits?
We’re on a good trajectory now, where it seems like more and more people are into the band and our old friends still come out to our shows. If we can stay on this trajectory, keep writing cool songs and playing cool shows, I’ll be happy.
However, I hope to move out of town ASAP. I work downtown and terrorism and world affairs provide me with near-constant dread, despite my anti-anxiety medication. I hope to return to my hometown and coach high school basketball, which is my calling.
What’s your take on that FAGGOT show you guys played? What did you think of them?
Oh man, Faggot was awesome! I really liked both the songs and the shtick. They were the only band we’ve ever gigged with that put the Coits to shame insofar as presenting a great stage show and taking punk to a psychotic extreme. It was great, but I don’t want to compete on that level, because we all know where that ends, and who wants that? Well, not me, for my band, anyway.
The Coits seem so different from the other punk bands in DC … not even in a good or bad way. I don’t even know where to start. Can you shed some light on this?
It is interesting to me that the vast majority of the people who are the prime drivers of the local scene – such as NickTape, ’Bec Levy, Spoonboy, James Doubek, Chris Moore, Orion, etc. – grew up in the area and have known each other since they were in high school or for even longer.
People who grow up around here have a lot of shared points of reference and influences, which influences their bands. It is relatively easy for them to become conversant in the sprawling universe of punk / HC / underground / extreme music.
John Albaneaze, Prescott, Hunt-Nat and I didn’t grow up in D.C., so our conception of punk wasn’t Crispus Attucks, the Suspects, Spitfires United, Enemy Soil, Q and not U, Nation of Ulysses, Page 99, Black Eyes, Lungfish, Fugazi, Autoclave, Scream, or Aggressive Behavior.
My conception of punk rock was Minor Threat, Bad Religion 1980-1985, Operation Ivy, the Sex Pistols, Devo, Rancid, the Ramones, etc. – stuff that would be accessible to a kid in the ’90s in the middle of nowhere.
I also tried some more avant bands (Fugazi, Flipper, etc.), but didn’t like them at the time. I liked punk, but was also into grunge and alternative rock and Megadeth, Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan, etc.
We’re coming at punk from a really different place than someone like Chris Moore is, because I spent the first 21 years of my life in a small towns in upstate New York, and it wasn’t easy to get down with the local scene even after I transferred to Georgetown (I always had a ton of homework, plus I am a lame square, etc.).
I didn’t really “converge with the D.C. scene” until I started booking the U-Turn (when I was 24 or so) and moved into Chris Moore’s pimped-out bedroom a few years after that.
Also, I sing, and not too many D.C. bands that play hard punk have vocalists who vocalize in that fashion.
Can you speak on your current and previous relationship with Garybird?
Special thanks to Clementine O’Connor, Libby Ellsworth-Kasch, Ayush Amatya, Alex Owings, Luke Bailey, Rachel Horst, Kurt Steigel, Parker and Lianne Bollinger, Abby Lavin, Jamie Gahlon, Jamie Bowman, James Viano, Greg Mortenson, Chris Rufo, E-Roc, James Doubek, Zack Pesavento, Pat Jagla, Ilsa, the Screws, John Scharbach, Justin Malone, Loren Martin, Nick Popovici, Sasha Rex, Mike Bazzone, Chris Barnett, Heather Green, Johnny Bones, Hussain M., Kalim M., Ben Crabb, Stephanie Sailo, Stephanie E. Sears, Matt Parsons, Drew Bashaw, Jay Nye, Sven Curth, Ricky Fitts, Donovan DeMacy, Josh Chase, Joel White, Elisabeth Schulte, Emily Reynolds-Stringer, Fil, Toast, Margarete Schulte, Michael Battaglia, ’Bec Levy, Ian MacKaye, Head-Roc, Jarobi White, Brian Baker, Brain Damaged, Flora, Mookie, Dave Stone, Rachel Klein, Maurice Alvarado, Rachel Horst, Big Al, Adam Piece, Mark Andersen, Chad Clark, John Langford IV, Ron Bercume, NickTape, Zachary Wuerthner, Simeon, Miguel, Alexandra, Blake, Roger Scully, David “Bones” McCullough, James Willett, Dave Homeowner, Daniel Jubert, Surgery Dot Com, At the Graves, Revolta, P. Spencer, Jamie Sherman, Ian Svenonius, Justin Moyer, H.R., Krist Novoselic, Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Rachel Atcheson, Triff Store Magic, Usuario2, and, of course, Rachel Horst.
What does punk rock need, and what does punk rock need less of?
I can’t even say. I’m in my own world nowadays and don’t have a particularly valid perspective on that. However, I sure would be glad if the world had fewer bandwagon riders, avid consumers, crypto-fascists, fascists, lazy people, thieves, frightened rabbits, herd-stampeders, and people who always take everything so seriously all the time. Life is too depressing to take it seriously.
I remember Greg Graffin saying something like, the definition of punk is being different by being yourself. I embrace that definition.
Punk rock, like the world, needs more joy and less shame.